ALEX KATZ (B. 1927)
ALEX KATZ (B. 1927)
ALEX KATZ (B. 1927)
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ALEX KATZ (B. 1927)

Hiroshi

Details
ALEX KATZ (B. 1927)
Hiroshi
oil on linen
48 x 36 in. (121.9 x 91.4 cm.)
Painted in 1979.
Provenance
Hiroshi Kawanishi, New York
Marlborough Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Brought to you by

Rachael White Young
Rachael White Young Vice President, Specialist, Co-Head of Day Sale

Lot Essay

What makes Alex Katz’s portraiture so captivating and beautiful is his ability to capture a fleeting moment in the lives of his friends and family. He creates works that share characteristics from both Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, producing his own unique style. Along with his specific style, the sense of mystery within his work enthralls viewers, allowing space to create their own narrative.

In order to truly capture the essence of the moment he is observing, Katz does not work from photographs, instead he draws from life as he sits in front of his subjects – sketching small variations of these moments with pen and pencil. This process is apparent in his 1979 drawing Hiroshi (cartoon), which we can assume was a process drawing for the painting which he also completed in 1979. The patience he has as an artist is not only seen through the in-depth process behind each work, but also through his skill with a paintbrush and the flatness he creates.

Like most of his portraits, Hiroshi (1979) presents the viewer with a refined yet compelling portrait of Hiroshi Kawanishi, a silkscreen printmaker, as well as collaborator and friend of Katz’s. We see the influences of film and advertisement within his works, as cinema has the capacity to narrate a story through imagery, much like Katz’s paintings do. This aspect helps to create a very specific composition, recognized as an Alex Katz painting. The way in which he cropped his subjects allowed them to fill up and take over the space of the canvas completely, like one is zoomed in on Hiroshi’s face through a camera lens. Katz’s use of color blocking helps to maintain simplicity within the face, while the use of different color hues creates depth. The glimmer of Hiroshi’s eyes pull the viewer in, activating a sense of emotion within the work. Although it is hard to understand exactly what it is he is feeling as his face remains stoic, staring off at the unknown. The dark background that he stands against begs the question of where he is. Is he alone? What is going on around him? This sense of mystery within the present work, along with all of his paintings, helps to keep the viewer intrigued in such a simple work.
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